What are we going to do with this rage?
That was a question I asked on social media today as the Senate moved one step closer to confirming a man accused of sexual assault, a man who screamed and lied and laid bare his extreme partisanship with no shame instead of answering questions about the accusations of sexual assault, to a lifetime appointment as a Supreme Court judge.
Some of the answers I got to this question were in sad jest. “Drink.” A few people said. Some were the same answers we’ve been hearing for every problem this horrific administration has laid at our feet: “Vote.” Some people simply answered variations of, “The same thing we’ve always done.”
But I was asking a question that I was really hoping people would put serious thought to. Because it is something I’ve been putting serious thought to. I am angry. I am so very angry. I’m sad and scared and tired and overwhelmed but also, every single day, I am angry.
I am angry that we have a president who brags about assaulting women, a Senate who will confirm a Supreme Court justice accused of assaulting women. I am angry that undocumented women who try to seek safety from abusive partners now risk deportation. I am angry that neo-Nazis are marching down the streets and police are more likely to arrest their counter-protesters than the racist thugs with torches. I am angry that business interests are being placed in charge of our environmental protection. I am angry that a woman who despises education has been placed in charge of our schools. I am angry that our already struggling healthcare for vulnerable and sick and disabled people is being gleefully stripped away. I am angry that black babies are dying in childbirth, dying in our playgrounds, dying in traffic stops. I am angry that Flint still doesn’t have drinking water and that Indigenous water protectors still stand alone. I am angry that on the evening that Donald Trump was elected to office my 8 year old son fell asleep with his laptop on his chest, his screen full of search results for “white supremacy.”
I am angry that yesterday a freshman — a child — took a gun onto my teenage son’s high school campus, and as he huddled on the cold floor of a dark locker room he had to text me, “Hey mom it’s Malcolm, just letting you know our school is having an emergency lockdown…” I’m angry that this isn’t the first time he’s had to do that. I’m angry that as I was anxiously waiting for news that everyone was okay I was thinking of how I’m so close — so close to getting him out of there. He’s a senior, 17, on the verge of independence and it could all be destroyed by kid who’s angry at a girl and a country that loves guns more than the safety of its children. I’m angry that right now somebody reading this will want to accuse me of “exploiting” gun violence to make a political point.
I am so angry, I am angry because all that I love is being threatened. I am angry because the people, the institutions, the values that I and so many others love are being destroyed. I am angry that even though every day there seems to be a new horror visited upon us by this administration, we are told to not be angry.
And we are constantly being told not to be angry. As a black woman especially, I hear it from all corners. To be angry is to give in to stereotypes of the shrill feminist, the mad black woman. To be angry is to trade intellect for emotion. To be angry is to be irrational and violent. To be angry is to be like them. To be angry is to lose.
But none of that is true. I am angry because I love. I am angry because what I love is being harmed. I know why my people matter, why the environment matters, why human rights matter, why justice matters. And I know that this all deserves love. I know that it deserves protection. And I know who is fighting to deny it what it deserves. I know that when that which we love is being harmed — to not be angry would be unconscionable.
As a black woman I have been told to hold many things at once. I’ve been told to hold shame, and fear and love. I’ve been told to hold the dreams of men, the futures of boys, the failures of fathers. I’ve been told to hold our elders and our young.
And yes, I can hold my intellect and my analysis of what is going on in this world. I can hold my ability to compromise and my ability to persevere. All this has always been expected of me. Perhaps it has been expected of you was well.
So surely, if we can hold all of that. We can hold this anger. Perhaps, if we set a few select things down, we could wield it.
This administration, and the legions of violent (mostly) white men who prop it up hope to overwhelm us. They hope to have us holding everything that we’ve always been told is our duty. They hope to have us running around trying to put out a thousand fires. They hope that we’ll remind each other that we’re too busy caring about their fears and their anger and their needs to have time for our own. They are hoping that we will keep reminding each other that our anger accomplishes nothing.
But how do we know that it will accomplish nothing when we’ve yet to put it to work? With all of the things that we manage to accomplish with so much stacked against us, we are supposed to believe that we can’t do something amazing with this anger? We owe our anger more than that.
What if, instead of being overwhelmed with their depravity, we overwhelmed them with our anger? What if every day, those who are working to increase the stronghold of white male patriarchy had to face the anger they have wrought everywhere they went? We’ve seen how terrified they are of the small amount of anger we’ve shown. We’ve seen how quickly they try to convince us that this new anger is not the answer, even though it has them talking about our rights and autonomy for the first time in decades, even though it already has them ringing alarms and coming up with contingency plans.
What if we took that anger beyond the internet? What if we took it into the streets more than once every two years? Into our boycotts? Into our strikes? Into the voting booth? What if we took that anger to our city council meetings? What if we took it to their campaign events and press conferences? What if we took it to our school boards and our workplaces? What if we took all this anger born of righteous love and aimed it?
So I’m asking you to please join me in thinking truly about what we are going to do with all of this rage.
It has to go somewhere.